From spousal and child support and attorney costs, to dividing debt and property, couples facing divorce can quickly become buried in lofty fees. And in today’s challenging economy, that can leave some wondering if they can even afford a legal separation.

Since divorce costs depend largely on speed and complexity, local attorneys say they see divorce cases going one of two ways: the quick, smooth, inexpensive track; or the lengthy, conflict-ridden, expensive route. For couples concerned at the prospect of mounting divorce fees, Joyce Capshaw of Carmody MacDonald says being prepared can help decrease costs. “Since lawyers are paid by the hour, bring the necessary documents and lay out an organized case for your attorney.” This will save the attorney time; and in turn, save the client money, she says. Additionally, if a couple’s lawyers can settle the case without a judge, avoiding a trial will significantly save on court costs. Capshaw also notes the importance of choosing the right attorney. “Be sure to hire an attorney who specializes in domestic law, is compatible with you and will guide you through—rather than take over—the process. The case belongs to you.”

At Stange Law, Kirk Stange advises clients about the law and how divorce works, regarding child support, debt and division of property. Then he shows them the worst- and best-case scenarios for the divorce outcome. “There are different results with different judges,” he notes. “So we give clients ranges in terms of what might happen.” This can help couples determine if they can afford the process.

To fund a divorce, some spouses take on a temporary part-time job or turn to family members, friends or finance agencies for extra financial support. These solutions often are far better than the emotionally distressful alternative—staying in an unwanted marriage, Capshaw says.

Regardless of the case, lawyers recommend facing the divorce process as a business transaction. “Set emotions aside and try to think of it as a breakup of a business partnership,” Capshaw says. This will speed up the process and lower overall costs.

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